(Deccan Herald, June 29, 2004)
(CHAMARAJ SAVADI narrates the inspiring tale of an individual who has been providing free mid-day meals to nearly 30,000 poor students in Bangalore city.)
It was lunch time when a gentleman in his forties visited a government school in J P Nagar, years ago. Several students had lined up to collect food as part of the mid-day meal scheme. Appajigowda was stunned to see what the children were eating at this school in Bangalore. While one of the little ones was having stale pulav, another child was eating stinking chutney.
For these children hailing from poor families, government schools are the only means of education, and in many cases, these meals are their only source of food too. So they are forced to eat whatever is served to them like the above said child which was eating the stale pulav despite the fact that it was served for two consecutive days. One of the children, who was more candid in admitting the truth, said that whatever her mother brings from work (as a domestic help) at houses, she brings to school.
Moved by the plight of these children at government-run schools, Appajigowda decided that something had to be done to ensure that these poor children can afford to eat at least one good meal a day. Thus began his mission in 1998 when he resigned from his job at Amco so as to dedicate himself for this noble cause.
With the amount (Rs 8 lakh) that he received from gratuity, provident fund etc, he established a trust called Akhila Karnataka Kannada Kasturi Kala Sangha.
Meanwhile, he went back to the same government school at J P Nagar and requested the staff that he intended to provide a free meal on all working days to every poor child in the school.
Thus began one of the rarest kind of services by an individual in a city like Bangalore. Today he provides one daily meal for nearly 30,000 poor children in Bangalore city. More than 101 government schools are getting his help to feed their poor students. Of them at least 12 schools are located in slums.
Although people were sarcastic initially, they gradually started appreciating his service. Help started pouring in from different quarters, and Appajigowda expanded his mid-day meals scheme to various schools. Gradually more and more schools were included into this programme. While Thyagarajnagar school became the 50th one to receive his help, Sunkenahalli school was the 75th and K N Guruswamy’s school became the 101st school in the City.
He provides food not only for primary school students but also to those studying up to Class X. In Sunkenahalli Government Primary School alone, 255 students are being fed. Although Anjanapur school is located 18 km away, it is noteworthy that food reaches there by lunchtime. To achieve this, Appajigowda has framed a foolproof schedule. There are two kitchens in J P Nagar and the third one is under construction at Sunkenahalli. Thirty workers start cooking food since morning and ten vans ferry meals to the respective schools. Teachers of these schools lend their hand in serving the food.
Appajigowda is not alone in this great endeavour, many others are also pitching in their bit by helping in whatever ways possible. The State Government, for example. has been providing 100 grams of rice and a monetary assistance of Rs 1 per child for 10,000 students.
Not satisfied, Appajigowda wants more schools to come under his mid-day meal scheme. What he feels he needs the most now is more funds and more service-oriented people. Headmasters of many schools are requesting him to extend the free mid-day meal scheme to their school too, which he is unable to do due to shortage of funds.
Those interested in helping Appajigowda can contact him at Akhila Karnataka Kannada, Kasturi Kala Sangha, No 2483, 17th Main, 25th Cross, Banashankari II Stage, Bangalore. Tel: 080-26713458. (M): 36764025.